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"The whole reason the term exists is to give storage the play the software-defined networking movement has," Norbie said. "The problem is, we already have software-defined storage. But we lack the ability to really define it."
The movement toward software-defined storage is already on with such technologies as VMware's vSphere VASA (vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness) or VMFS (Virtual Machine File System), or in such converged infrastructure offerings as the FlexPod reference architecture developed by NetApp and Cisco, or in the EMC-Cisco joint-venture VCE, or in companies like Nutanix, Norbie said.
What's missing is the kind of APIs that would make software-defined storage an integrated part of the software-defined data center, he said.
Norbie said to think of the software-defined data center as a Logitech Harmony remote which, when used with a home theater system, controls everything with the press of a button.
"In a way, that's how software-defined-everything should be," he said. "One button to do all the automation. Today, no vendor has that technology that works with everything ... We just lack all the controls for an extra management function. Storage is a component, networking is a component, compute is a component. We have control with compute and networking. Storage will be the hardest one."
Smaller storage vendors, especially startups, are quick to say that software-defined storage is a reality.
Jerome Lecat, CEO of Scality, a San Francisco-based developer of scale-out storage technology, defined software-defined storage as a platform built from x86-based servers where all the intelligence and storage-specific capabilities are provided by software.
"With software-defined storage, the storage is not in an array," Lecat said. "It's in servers and disks. We're not using any arrays."
Lecat admitted there is some hype in the term software-defined storage. "It's like when people talked about 'cloud-washing,' which was the tendency to apply the word 'cloud' to everything," he said.
However, Lecat said, the storage industry has been talking about software-defined storage for years even if the term was not yet used.
"We talked about this for three years," he said. "In 2011, I had to use long sentences to describe it. Now, I say SDS, and people get it."
Software-defined technology is here to stay, and will definitely be widely deployed, Lecat said. "Will this term stay in use?" he said. "I don't know. But the concept will be there."
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